The UK government’s plans to ‘unlock the power’ of gene editing have been described as ‘the most important political breakthrough in plant breeding in the UK in over 20 years’.
Samantha Brooke, Executive Director of the British Society of Plant Breeders, said: “We welcome confirmation that Defra will take a more scientific and proportionate approach to the regulation of genetic technologies such as gene editing. ”
Ms Brooke said that by differentiating the gene editing procedure from the stricter rules for genetically modified organisms, Defra would give plant breeders greater freedom in research and innovation. “This will help develop healthier and more nutritious foods and make farming systems more sustainable in the face of climate change,” she suggested.
“It can take up to 15 years to develop an improved crop variety using conventional breeding to improve yield, nutritional quality or disease resistance. However, gene editing can help reduce this timescale dramatically. This is why this change in legislation is so important.
“This sends a clear signal that the UK is on a more pro-innovation trajectory,” said Brooke. food crops for the benefit of society and the environment.
She noted that the National Plant Variety Registration List System only allows approval of new food crops if they offer improvements in field performance and food quality characteristics through extensive testing: “This proven regulatory system can also encompass new varieties produced using engineering genetics, which replicate what breeders are already doing, but in a much faster and more targeted manner.